February 4, 2010 - Regional Perspectives on a New Human Rights Instrument for Older People: Concerns and Benefits


“Regional Perspectives on a New Human Rights Instrument for Older People: Concerns and Benefits” 

The Launch of Resource Document: “Strengthening the Rights of Older Persons: Towards a New UN Convention”

The program, organized by Susanne Paul, Global Action on Aging, and Jessica Frank, AARP International, featured governmental officials from 4 regions addressing the regional perspectives on the topic and the release of an NGO prepared publication on the need for a human rights instrument. The discussion was an NGO side event during the U.N.’s 48th session of the Commission for Social Development.

Miloslav Hetteš, International Labour and Social Policy Director General, Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic, pointed out that Europe is an old continent with a very old population these days. While Europeans are living longer, the overall population is dropping. Although older Europeans represent a triumph of progress in health care and better living standards, they also are subject to exclusion, marginalization and discrimination. He also reported that the European Union did certify a charter of fundamental rights last year that includes some protections for the elderly.

Bertin Babadoudou, First Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Benin to the UN, noted that older people are highly respected in his country and said Benin’s government already has made efforts to provide social protection for the elderly He advocates the strengthening of national laws for older persons as a step toward an eventual convention. Cultural and regional values also need to be considered. We used to say Africa is one, we have the same culture, but we are very different.

Maria Luz Melon, First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Argentina to the UN, agreed that varying cultures must be respected. Countries are coming to the same thing from differing realities, so we cannot have a one-sided approach. Aging is not a problem, aging is a success; aging is a good thing that is happening to all the regions. Each country needs to do as much as it can on promoting the rights of older persons but as speedily as consensus will allow us.  Working toward a convention in this manner should bring us together.

Zahid Rastam, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the UN, pointed out that discrimination against older persons exists at all levels of society and governments must change the prevailing attitudes that people’s lives are worth less the older they get. He believes Asian countries, as a whole, would have a positive view about a convention. But countries that have “a larger voice” at the United Nations need to take the lead .Then, he thinks, the rest will follow.

The event also served as the launch of a new resource, “Strengthening Older People’s Rights: Towards a U.N. Convention.”  The publication is a collaboration of AARP Office of International Affairs, AGE/UK, Global Action on Aging, HelpAge International, International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics, International Federation on Aging, International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, International Longevity Center Global Alliance and the NGO Committee on Aging. It can be downloaded here.

This summary is based on a report of the event by Linda Bloom, Global Action on Aging.

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